How your sunscreen affects marine life
Sunscreen is an effective way to prevent the negative effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. It reduces the risk of undesirable skin conditions such as sunburn and skin cancer. Some manufacturers also suggest that you need to re-apply sunscreen after your body makes a longer contact with water. Sweat can also reduce sunscreen’s efficacy so re-applying is a safe way to make sure you are well protected under the heat.
What many of the vacationers, snorkelers even surfers or scuba divers unfortunately don’t realize is that most sunscreen products contain non-biodegradable ingredients including oxybenzone, butylparaben and other. As you make contact with water, these chemicals are washed out causing e.g. coral bleach. Petroleum (mineral oil) is found on a number of products, too. Although it is not completely non-biodegradable, petroleum has low solubility rate.
Put Things into Perspective
Compared to other serious threats to the environment caused by climate change, pollution, overfishing, destructive exploration, over commercialization, and large scale coastal-development, using the “wrong” sunscreen might be considered a banality. It unfortunately isn’t. According to a publication on National Geographic News, there are up to six thousand tons of sunscreen washed off swimmers’ bodies annually. Most of it is left in the ocean or any body of water and it threatens fragile aquatic ecosystem.
In the vast underwater ecosystem, one organism is connected to another and affecting each other’s chance of survival in nature. Our use of non-biodegradable products puts this delicate balance at risk. A study published on the Environmental Health Perspectives suggests that at least four common sunscreen ingredients awaken dormant viruses called zooxanthellae which live inside coral species. When awake, the virus will continue to replicate until the host explodes. Upon explosion, these viruses spread into the water and affect the surrounding areas.
Be a conscious consumer
As consumers, we are exposed to marketing hypes by countless companies who claim to make safe products. Many use the term eco-friendly or natural simply to persuade buyers and make more sales. Most of the customers blindly believe the labels without asking for clarifications. And the brands know it.
Consumers need to learn to practice smart purchasing. When it comes to sunscreen, the best way to start is to read the labels and do our due diligence to recognize any dangerous ingredients. Organic and biodegradable alternatives are available. They will probably be more expensive, but it is because the manufacturing process takes more time and utilizes more complicated methods.
On an individual level, using safe sunscreen cannot solve the problem with the coral’s destruction. But if everybody has the same perspective and makes the effort to use safe sunscreen for nature, the effects on collective level can be profound. Check this guide for sunscreens.
Scuba Diving in Bali is one of Indonesia’s best. However with more travelers coming to explore the beautiful underwater world, using an environmentally friendly sunscreen might help a great deal in preserving the natural heritage for generations to come.
You may want to read also:
• Eco friendly sunscreen tips
• Why micro-beads should be banned
• Why fishing destroys our ocean planet